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Nothing she wrote was exceptional; her prose, though clean, was very plain. But typing away ""at my bedroom desk"" over the years, Gladys Taber turned the family homesteads--Stillmeadow, in Connecticut, and Still Cove on Cape Cod--into havens of countryside contentment for thousands of faithful, envious readers. For them, Constance Taber Colby's introductory account of her mother's death in March 1980, on the eve of her 81st birthday, and of the memorial service tendered her on the Cape, will be a welcome sharing. ""The lists of volunteers and their tasks,"" fittingly, ""includes many names that have appeared and reappeared in Gladys' books. . . ."" They appear again, with others, in this selection from Mrs. Taber's last two years of columns for the Cape Cod Oracle. She names the shopkeepers, the people who provide services--Mr. and Mrs. Picknick, the impeccable window-washers (""one stationed on each side of the window so that blurs and spots never escape""); Paul Underhill, who drives the oil truck--a chance to ""keep an eye on everything, the people, the animals, the birds."" ""It occurred to me,"" she writes, ""that the people closest to us, those who fill the greater part of our lives, are. . . those who help us in the mechanics of living."" It may also occur to the reader--stopping in at the new Deli, sampling the cold soups at Barley Neck Inn--that Mrs. Taber was writing, craftily, for a local paper. But a mere drive for a ""Sunday-night supper,"" or to see how a friend's ""vegetables are doing,"" expands from a redolent phrase to a column. Interspersed are recipes, bird-sightings, cat and dog doings, family visits and calls, some expressions of disapproval or regret (teenage drugs-violence-fecklessness, chiefly). If the effect is more soothing than stimulating, it was an accomplishment, still, to make so little matter to so many.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row